Fatal car accident results in texting while driving conviction

A landmark Massachusetts case was recently decided in Haverhill. It stemmed from a fatal car accident that happened in 2001. A Haverhill teenager, who was 17 at the time of the collision, was accused of texting while driving and thereby causing a head-on crash that took the life of a 55-year-old man and seriously injured the man’s girlfriend. Guilty verdicts were returned for criminal charges of motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation of a motor vehicle causing serious injury while texting.

The judge presiding over the criminal proceedings sentenced the teen to two and a half years on the homicide conviction and two years on the negligent operation verdict. However, the judge directed that the now-convicted felon serve one year in the Essex House of Correction and suspended the remainder of the prison sentences. He also ordered that the youth’s license to operate a motor vehicle be suspended for 15 years. Court officers took the teen into custody after the sentence was rendered.

The judge noted that every sentence consists of four basic principles. One is to punish the individual convicted, while a second is to consider due regard for public safety. A third is to seek rehabilitation of the person found guilty, and a fourth is to deter similar criminal acts among the public at large. It was the last principle that the judge chose to emphasize, noting that all of us must be focused on the road while operating a motor vehicle, a duty which is not met by those motorists who insist on texting while driving.

While the defendant will now have at least a year in jail to think about his conduct, the family of the deceased victim has only memories of their loved one. His girlfriend must not only endure her grief but continue the struggle to overcome her own injuries. A Massachusetts State Police spokesperson, while acknowledging the importance of the verdict, thought the maximum sentence should have been enforced, given the circumstances. There was no indication as to whether the deceased victim’s family or the seriously injured girlfriend intended to turn to the state courts for additional civil remedies as a result of the tragic and senseless car accident.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Haverhill teen convicted of motor vehicle homicide in fatal crash tied to texting,” Brian R. Ballou and John R. Ellement, June 6, 2012

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